I’ve been doing some studying on forgiveness recently; and I’ve been so blessed, I thought I would share some of my gleanings with you. We live in an age that seems fraught with conflict, hurt and unforgiveness. Sometimes we are hurt by someone who had no idea what they said or did would be hurtful. Other times it’s deliberate. Either way, as Christians, we have to forgive!
In my life, I find that the older I get, the harder it is to forgive when I am deeply hurt. That seems so backward to me. 😐 I long to be as freely forgiving as I was in my younger years. I remember years ago telling my then fiance, now my husband, that I don’t know what the big deal is with people who can’t forgive. I announced that “its really pretty easy, you just get over stuff and move on!”
Well… that was before real life hit me, I guess. It seems now, my initial reaction to hurt is anger, not so much forgiveness. I tend to think my feelings are justified, and that the offending person deserves my cold shoulder, or maybe just my indignant feelings that I don’t bother to hide. But the fact is, if I don’t forgive, neither will God forgive me of my offenses.
I find that the difficulty of forgiveness varies much, according to the seriousness of the “crime” committed, and the closeness of your prior relationship with the offender. This is such basic info, but its important to understand, I believe. If someone you barely know, or don’t really like offends you, it can make you bristle up and growl a little, but with no prior relationship, there’s little room for hurt.
The ones that get us are the close relationships. The family member, who (knowingly or unknowingly) steps on our toes, or lifelong friend who breaks a confidence, or allows him/herself to be turned against you by the influence of someone else who barely knows you.
I know this feeling pretty well, as in the recent past, I wasted the better part of a year, feeling angry, hurt and mistreated, over a lifelong friend of mine who just decided to step out of my life, giving me no good reason for what made them do so. Like, I’m talking close, close friends since we were 2 or 3 years old. This hurt! Of course it did, but I’ll be honest, looking back, I believe in many ways I reacted as a child would.
I cried. I tried to figure out why. I cried some more. I… yes, I pitied myself. I held a grudge… I justified my self pity and my grudge as righteous indignation. I tried to forgive the person but I just couldn’t seem to get it out of my head.
I talked to a dear friend about it, and I remember saying, “If (the person) would just give me a good reason! Then I could understand!”
My friend sweetly listened and then asked me if I really wanted them living rent free inside my head.
I did not. God forbid. I was determined to forgive the person, (or figure out how to collect some rent… ha!) But determining that wasn’t enough to fix it. Another friend offered some more useful advice. He said: “First, forgive yourself. Figure out all the ways you have reacted wrongly toward the situation, make it right with the other person, and forgive yourself.”
At first I felt a little injured and didn’t think there was much to forgive on my end. (Especially when I got to comparing…) but I remembered some not so sweet things I said to the person when we had talked, and tried to make that right. I prayed and prayed, I cried some more, but nothing changed.
Months later I felt like I was at still at square 1. No progress. God hadn’t “just fixed it” as I had basically ordered Him to do. Things were just as they had been, and I still had a pesky tenant in my head who wasn’t paying any rent!
It’s been a year and a half now, and if you were outside looking in at the situation, you might say not much has changed. God still hasn’t “fixed it.” Oh, but He has! He fixed it in my heart! He showed me that I was being selfish in trying to cling to the friendship, rather than considering that the other person wanted just that badly to not be friends. He showed me that I didn’t need a reason. I just needed to let go.
But the amazing thing He did, was to take away almost all of the hurt, and replace it with peace. Peace, and the knowledge that my happiness need not depend on whether or not the friendship is ever resumed. He gave me a thankful heart that recognizes the multitude of wonderful friends I do have, and a broader view that puts in perspective what an insignificant thing this is, compared to Him and His kingdom.
Through this I learned that forgiveness is not always “pretty easy!” It can be downright grueling, and can involve many prayers and tears mixed with lots of love.
I learned that joy is much easier to keep if I base it on my Lord Jesus and not on earthly things, such as how I’m being treated, or who is or isn’t my friend. If my joy is Jesus, no one, I repeat no one can take it from me!
There is another aspect of forgiveness that I used to struggle with. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that once I gave my life to Jesus, all my past sins were under the blood. Satan would come up and remind me: “Remember?” And remember I did. I realize now that this is a tool of his. It puts you in his control, because essentially, if you are giving in to false guilt, you are saying Christ’s blood isn’t enough to cover your sins. False guilt is a form of unbelief.
See, since you’ve been saved, the past is gone! The guilt and shame is gone! Praise the Lord, just one drop of His blood is enough to make you clean! But Satan doesn’t want you to know that. He wants to trip you up, so even though you are forgiven by God, you may struggle to forgive yourself. But you must.
If you struggle to forgive others or yourself for past wrongs, take it to Jesus. If Satan drags it back to you, tell him to flee, and leave it at the cross again. And again. It’s so essential to recognize, that the moment you turn over your life and your sin to Jesus, you are covered by His blood. God throws your sin into the ocean and doesn’t remember it any more!
I’m not trying to sound like an old pro, I just want to pass along what helped me, in case someone else has had the same struggles… I have two books I’d like to recommend if you struggle with forgiveness. 1. The Holy Bible and 2. Total Forgiveness, by R.T. Kendall
A few references to look up on forgiveness, are as follows:
Mark 11:25, Romans 12:14-21, Psalm 103:12, Isaiah 43:25, and Micah 7:18,19.
Some of these pertain to humans forgiving one another, and some to God’s forgiveness toward us. I strongly encourage reading these in a newer translation such as NLT, as it makes it more clear and easily understood.
Here is a poem I recently felt inspired to write.
“It Is Well”
I loved the old hymn, “It is well with my soul,”
But I found it untrue in my heart,
For my past had its secrets that only God knew,
Even though I had made a new start.
Oh yes, I had “given my life to the Lord,”
And I knew He had died for my sins.
But I didn’t know-if I didn’t let go
Of the guilt- that he couldn’t come in.
My guilt stood between us-my Savior and I,
Not room for them both in my heart.
I was freely forgiven by Jesus you see,
But I was forgetting one part.
Each time I would sing “It is well with my soul,”
I would ask of my soul, “Is it well?”
I knew it was not, and I longed to be whole,
But the guilt-demon I could not quell.
Then I read how so far as the east from the west,
God has taken my guilt from me,
I learned that my sin He remembers no more,
And I slowly began to see.
My sin, (every word, every thought, and wrong)
Has been nailed with my Lord to the tree.
What a glorious tho’t! I must bear it no more!
Praise the Lord, now from guilt I’m free!
Now peace like a river, runs deep in my soul,
As to others His mercy I tell,
Now with joy I can sing, as onward I go…
Is it well with my soul? It is well!
“Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their actions, it stops their actions from destroying your heart.” -unknown